Pinellas County

Death net? Critics insist proposed $3 million St. Pete waterfront sculpture is not for the birds

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) -- A $3 million art proposal to build a giant floating net above St. Petersburg's waterfront is turning into a battle over birds.

"I want this dead now," said wildlife advocate Lorraine Margeson, who considers the proposed sculpture a death net for birds. "The city council should not spend one more dime on this project."

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman is spearheading the project and says the artist's feasibility study indicates the sculpture is safe for birds.

"At this point in time really, it's going to be about whether we can raise the private funds for the artwork," he said.

The colorful sculpture resembles a huge fishing net suspended 65 feet high and stretching nearly the length of a football field across Spa Beach Park at the foot of the new St. Petersburg Pier approach.

A feasibility study by internationally-acclaimed artist Janet Echelman last June indicates the floating sculpture poses no danger to birds and includes an emailed blessing from FWC shorebird biologist Katheryn Harris.

"Regarding bird entanglements, we do not foresee any potential impacts with this specific project at Spa Beach," Harris writes.

The feasibility report also implies the tacit support of Eckerd College bird expert Elizabeth Forys, who tells 8 On Your Side she is not at all comfortable with Echelman's proposed artwork.

"When I looked at it, my first thought is it really does look like a really big net," Forys said. "I am concerned that at the very least it will scare the birds but I am worried on a foggy day, inclement weather, some birds may be pushed into the net. I don't think there's ever been anything like this in a similar environment to ours."

Whether it turns into a people magnet or a bird magnet, the giant waterfront sculpture already has people buzzing and some of them insist it has no place on St.Pete's waterfront.

"We're not going to do anything that's not good for the environment," said Kriseman. "If we're convinced it's not going to be, we're not going to do it."

Whatever the case, it's going to require a $1.3 million taxpayer investment.

"I am worried that this is going to be a very expensive installation and we might find out the hard way that it's not working," Forys said. "I  cant think of a similar example anywhere else."

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